Skip to Main Content

Latino Americans: 500 Years of History, 100 Years in New Jersey

Rutgers University Libraries NEH/ALA Grant Project 2015-2016

Biographical Statements

Project Scholar--Samuel Bañales

Samuel Bañales currently teaches interdisciplinary courses in the Hispanic Caribbean Studies Department at Rutgers University. He completed a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley, an MA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California at San Diego, and a BA in Spanish and Portuguese from the University of California at Berkeley. His writings are published in academic journals, including Aztlán: a Journal of Chicano Studies and Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. Bañales' short films have been screened in various academic conferences and film festivals throughout the US and Latin America.   


Project Scholar--Carolina Alonso Bejarano

Carolina Alonso Bejarano is a doctoral candidate in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Rutgers University. Her research interests lie in the intersection of decolonial theory and migration studies, particularly as it relates to the production of immigrant illegality in the United States. Specifically, she examines how the colonial history of New Jersey influences current anti-immigration legislation in the state, while conducting ethnographic and organizing work with the undocumented Latin American community in Freehold, New Jersey. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and a Law Degree from the Los Andes University, Colombia and a M.Sc. in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Alonso Bejarano is a collective owner, editor and translator of Sangria Legibilities, a bilingual publishing house based in New York City and Santiago de Chile. She absolutely loves teaching and believes it's an important form of activism, and in her spare time she works on her dream of one day becoming a serious disc jockey.


Project Partner/Project Co-Director- Robert Belvin, Director, New Brunswick Free Public Library

Robert J. Belvin, Ph.D. has been a library director for nearly 40 years and will celebrate his 25th year as the New Brunswick Free Public Library director in 2015. A New Brunswick resident, he has guided the library while New Brunswick became a model for urban rebirth in New Jersey and during a period of community change demonstrated by the public school enrollment changing from ⅔ African-American to a current 75% Hispanic enrollment with half of those students being of Mexican origin.

Brought up in Brooklyn, New York, he earned his Masters in Library Science at Pratt Institute. In 2006, he earned his doctorate from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey with a dissertation entitled An Exploration of Satisficing within the FSCS-NCES Public Library Survey Data Set Utilizing Forensic Analysis. While at Rutgers, he was a member of the team that won the American Library Association's 1989 Jesse H. Shera Award for Research.

Belvin has served on numerous professional boards including President and Treasurer of the Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium, the Urban Public Libraries Section--New Jersey Library Association, and the Raritan Valley Federation of Libraries. He is the Founding President of the New Brunswick Historical Society, a member of the New Brunswick Historical Association, the Community Arts Council, the Middlesex County College Advisory Committee for the New Brunswick Center, New Brunswick Public Sculpture Board of Directors, New Brunswick Tomorrow task forces, and the Kiwanis Club of New Brunswick. He also served as Secretary of the Middlesex County 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness Task Force and on the Advisory Committee, Globalization and Industrial America, 1830-2000.


Project Partner/Project Co-Director- Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt is co-founder and director of the New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center (njhric) @ the Newark Public Library in New Jersey.   The Center has three components:  La Sala Hispanoamericana – home to the largest public library collection of Spanish-language materials in the state; the Hispanic Reference Center – a source of information on the diverse Latino communities in New Jersey; and the Puerto Rican Community Archives – a historical archive of New Jersey’s largest and longest-established Latino group.

Interested in developing resources and providing cultural programming for Hispanic audiences, Ms. Betancourt has progressively enhanced and expanded the Newark Library’s annual Latino Heritage Celebration during the last 30 years.  It currently consists of a three-month-long cultural program series that includes a major exhibition and series of free public programs linked by a common theme relevant to the Latino community.  The Newark Library now provides the most extensive concentration of free Hispanic programming by a non-Hispanic organization in New Jersey.      

From 1991 through 2005 Ms. Betancourt also served as Director of the Multilingual Materials Acquisition Center, a New Jersey information clearinghouse and resource center on library services and materials in selected world languages. She has published a variety of articles in professional journals and served as associate editor of the reference publication, Guide to Multicultural Resources, 1995-96.  

Ms. Betancourt is a former president of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking – an affiliate of the American Library Association, and a founding member of the REFORMA Northeast Regional Chapter.  She served as Co-Chair of the National Steering Committee for the first REFORMA National Conference in 1996, held in Austin, Texas.

During her career Ms. Betancourt has received numerous awards in recognition of her professional contributions and community advocacy and service.  In 2011, she received the “Mujeres Destacadas Award” a recognition given annually to outstanding women in the tri-state area by El Diario La Prensa, a daily newspaper in New York City.  La Tribuna, the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in New Jersey, recognized her as a “Distinguished Woman of 2005,” for her years of service to the Latino community.  The Northeast Chapter of REFORMA presented her with the Pura Belpré Award in recognition of her contributions to REFORMA and excellence in library and information services to Latino and Spanish-speaking communities.

Ingrid Betancourt is known as an advocate for library services to underserved populations.  She is a consultant, translator, trainer and speaker on library services and programs for culturally diverse communities and has presented on these subjects at the state and national level.

Ms. Betancourt holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Rutgers, the State University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern State University.


Project Partner/Project Co-Director--Carlos Fernandez

 (Director, Center for Latino Arts and Culture) joined Rutgers University in 2005. He holds a Masters degree in ethnomusicology and a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University. Originally from Costa Rica, he is a musician performing vocal and instrumental music from the Latin American baroque, folk and popular music. His scholarly research has focused on popular religious practice and traditional music of Costa Rica and includes several articles in the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (1998) and a book entitled Romancero y Cancionero Tradicional de Costa Rica (1999), and more recently Latino performing arts and the public sphere. Dr. Fernandez serves as adjunct faculty with the Rutgers departments of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies and Spanish, where he teaches courses in Latino performing arts and cultural identity, Latino festival traditions, and Latin American and Caribbean song, music and dance.


Project Scholar--Danilo Figueredo

Dan Figueredo is the author of multiple books on the Latino experience in the United States.  His picture book, When This World Was New, has won the attention of hundreds of schools across the nation; in fact, several institutions, such Bank Street College and the College of Rhode Island, have selected the volume as one of the best children’s books of the last decade and one of the best to illustrate the process of immigration.  His short story “That October” is also included in the curriculum in many schools in the Midwest.  His latest book, Revolvers and Pistolas, Vaqueros and Caballeros: Debunking the Old West, has gained attention in the Southwest. 

Figueredo worked as a bibliographer and curator at the Research Libraries of New York Public library introducing Latino literature to the library’s famous Latin American collection. He was assistant chief of the map division of New York Public.  He was the Latino Studies editor of the Multicultural Review and contributed bibliographies to Booklists for nearly two decades.    At the moment he is the editor of the Latino ssection of the American Mosaic, an ABC/CLIO database.

Project Scholar- Peter Guarnaccia

Peter Guarnaccia (Ph. D. Connecticut, 1984; M.A. Connecticut, 1980; B.A. Harvard, 1972) is Professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the School of Environmental & Biological Sciences (SEBS) and Investigator at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy & Aging Research at Rutgers University. His research interests include cross-cultural patterns of psychiatric disorders, cultural competence in mental health organizations, and processes of cultural and health change among Latino immigrants. He has examined mental health among Latino individuals in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico for two decades, most recently using the National Latino and Asian American (NLAAS) mental health study funded by National Institute of Mental Health. Publications from the NLAAS include “Assessing Diversity among Latinos: Results from the NLAAS” published in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences (30:357-378, 2007) and “Ataque de Nervios as a Marker of Social and Psychiatric Vulnerability: Results from the NLASS” published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry (56:289-309, 2010).

Guarnaccia was Associate Editor of Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry from 2000-2004 and Co-Editor-in-Chief from 2004-2007. He is co-editor, with Keith Wailoo and Julie Livingston, of A Death Retold: Jesica Santillan, the Bungled Transplant, and Paradoxes of Medical Citizenship, published by the University of North Carolina Press (2006). He has been shifting his research to Mexico, reflected in a recent publication in Ethnic and Racial Studies in 2011 entitled “‘We eat meat everyday’: Ecology and economy of dietary change among Oaxacan migrants from Mexico to New Jersey.” He currently directs one of the International Service Learning Programs on Culture & Community Health in Oaxaca, Mexico and is currently working on publications from a study of immigrant students at Rutgers entitled “What Makes Acculturation Successful?” that was funded by NICHD.

Guarnaccia has cultivated strong relationships with Mexican communities in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Oaxaca, Mexico--from where many of the local immigrants arrived--through his studies of community health and development. Working with Daniel Goldstein, a Rutgers anthropologist and former director of the Center for Latin American Studies, he launched "Transnational New Brunswick," a project that has included the development of an international service-learning course on community health issues in Oaxaca. The course has enhanced undergraduate education through research and service learning experiences, and aims to improve the lives and health of Mexican community residents in New Brunswick and Oaxaca. In collaboration with the State University System of Oaxaca (SUNEO), he has reached out to leaders of New Brunswick's Mexican community to study health related issues in both communities.  Local community leaders have worked with Rutgers SEBS faculty and staff to grow marigolds for the Day of the Dead celebration and with the Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station to develop a New Brunswick 4-H chapter that engages Mexican youth in a range of activities, including the local farmer's market.


Project Director- Nancy Kranich

Nancy Kranich teaches at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information and conducts special projects for the Rutgers University Libraries. She served as President of the American Library Association in 2000-2001, focusing on the role of libraries in democracies. A tireless advocate for free and open access to information, Nancy has spoken out against censorship, filtering, secrecy, privatization, and other attempts to limit the public’s information rights. She has also spearheaded ALA's right to know, information commons, civic and community engagement, and Internet filtering initiatives, formed the Coalition on Government Information, and established the James Madison Awards honoring champions of public access to information. She has testified several times before Congress, attended annual legislative days at the state and national levels, and participated in several White House and Congressional briefings. In 2015, ALA awarded Nancy the Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship.

Nancy has chaired and served on a number of ALA committees that deal with intellectual freedom, information policy, copyright, privacy, information commons and public engagement, and led the Association’s efforts to oppose the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), promote privacy, and advocate media diversity. In addition, Nancy founded and chairs the ALA Center for Civic Life and ALA’s Libraries Foster Community Engagement Membership Initiative Group, and was instrumental in launching ALA’s partnership with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation.

Most of Nancy’s library career was based at New York University, where, as Associate Dean of Libraries, she managed NYU’s libraries, archives, press, and media services. She also worked in public libraries in Bridgeport and Windsor, CT, and Madison, WI.  After retiring from NYU, Nancy served as Senior Research Fellow at the Free Expression Policy Project in New York where she authored: The Information Commons: A Public Policy Report and participated in an Indiana University convening about scholarly commons that led to the publication of Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice, edited by Charlotte Hess and Nobel Prize Winner Elinor Ostrom.

Prior to moving to New Jersey, Nancy lived and worked for several years as a civic librarian in State College, PA, fostering civic engagement, consulting with libraries and policy organizations, serving as a trustee of the public library, and lecturing at Penn State, UW-Milwaukee (online), Long Island, and other universities.  Now at Rutgers University, Nancy splits her time between teaching information policy and intellectual freedom courses in Library and Information Science and working as Special Projects Librarian.

Kranich has appeared on the Today Show, the C-Span Washington Journal, Bill Moyers’ NOW and National Public Radio. She has conducted hundreds of presentations and media interviews and written extensively on such topics as information policy, civic engagement, scholarly communication, censorship, democracy and advocacy. Her notable publications include: “Libraries and Strong Democracy: Moving from an Informed to a Participatory Citizenry,” Indiana Libraries, (2013); “Can the First Amendment Coexist with Civility? Response to ‘What Is the Role of Law in Promoting Civility? What Are Its Limits?’” Insights on Law and Society (American Bar Association), (2013); “The Conversation Continues @ your library,” with Carlton Sears, American Libraries, (2012); “What’s Daddy’s Roommate Doing in Wasilla?The Nation (2008); “Libraries as Universal Service Providers,” Benton Foundation Universal Service Project, (2007); “The Promise of Academic Libraries Transforming Campus Communities,” College and Research Libraries News (2014); “Libraries and Civic Engagement,” The Library and Book Trade Annual (2012);  “Academic Libraries as Hubs for Deliberative Democracy,” Journal of Public Deliberation (2010); Libraries and Democracy: The Cornerstones of Liberty, ALA (2001); “The Impact of the USA PATRIOT Act on Free Expression,” Free Expression Policy Project, (2003); “Civic Partnerships: The Role of Libraries in Promoting Civic Engagement” (2005); and Libraries and Democracy: The Cornerstones of Liberty, ALA (2001).

Kranich is Treasurer of the National Security Archive in Washington and judges Project Censored's Most Underreported Stories of the Year. She has worked internationally to advance libraries and democracy in Eastern Europe and to promote universal service and information commons in France, China, Mexico and Taiwan. In 2011, she helped plan and lead the workshop, Beyond Books: News, Literacy and Democracy for America’s Libraries, which asked what’s possible when journalists and librarians come together. An active proponent and convener of dialogue, deliberation, and community engagement, she works closely with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation, and the Kettering Foundation, including participating in the Deliberative Democracy Exchange, serving on the board of its National Issues Forum Institute (NIFI), attending the U.S./Russia Dartmouth Conference dialogues, and chairing the NIFI local affiliate in State College, PA.

Kranich earned a master's degree and studied for her doctorate in Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, and an M.A. in Library Science and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin--Madison. 


Project Scholar- Regina Marchi

Regina Marchi is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University. She is also an affiliated professor with the Rutgers Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies and the Rutgers Center for Race and Ethnicity. Focusing on communication processes of populations historically marginalized from official politics and news media because of their class, race, gender, ethnicity, immigration status or age, she is ultimately interested in how various forms of media and popular culture advance or hinder possibilities for democratic participation. She is the author of Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon (Rutgers University Press 2009), which examines the role of Latin American and Chicano/US Latino Day of the Dead rituals and related public art in creating community, sustaining a sense of cultural identity, and communicating politically. The book received the national James W. Carey Award for Media Research and an International Latino Book Award in the category of Best Political/Historical Book.

Dr. Marchi has been invited to speak about Day of the Dead and other cultural topics at universities around the country and the globe and has also been interviewed about Day of the Dead on National Public Radio, the book website, and various other media outlets. Prior to life in academia, she worked as a journalist in the United States and Central America. She holds a Masters degree in English Literature from San Francisco State University and a Doctoral degree in Communication from the University of California at San Diego.


Project Scholar- Aldo Lauria Santiago

Aldo Lauria Santiago is Professor I in the Departments of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies and the History Department at Rutgers University. He is a historian of Latin America, the Caribbean and U.S. Latinos with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago who specializes in peasant and working class history. His most recent publication To Rise in Darkness (Duke University Press, 2008), co-authored by Jeffrey Gould (Indiana University), is a history of the 1932 peasant/communist revolt of El Salvador and the traumatic memory of state-sponsored mass murder that followed it and has haunted the country ever since. His previous An Agrarian Republic (Pittsburgh, 1999) traces the social, economic and political history of El Salvador during the nineteenth century. 

His current research focuses on the regional history of the peasantry in Western Mexico and the history of the Puerto Rican (and other Latino) working class in New York City. He is working on his book “A Better Life:” Puerto Rican Workers and the Making of New York City--A History of Class, Community and Struggle, 1917-1970.” and with coauthor Lorrin Thomas (Rutgers, Camden) The Puerto Rican Movement: Origins, Impact, and Legacies. (for Routledge’s American Social and Political Movements of the 20th Century Series).

He served as chair of the department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies for seven years and has served professionally in different capacities: as President of the New England Council of Latin American Studies, as Chair of the Latino Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association and as coordinator or organizer of many conferences, panels and organizations. In addition to a doctorate, Santiago received a BA from Princeton University and an MA in Latin American Studies from New York University.


Project Scholar--Jorge Reina Schement

Jorge Reina Schement serves as Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion at Rutgers University New Brunswick and at Rutgers Biological and Health Sciences. He is Distinguished Professor of Communication Policy, and Latino Studies. He also chairs the Executive Committee for Rutgers’ 250th Anniversary Commemoration, and previously served as Dean of the School of Communication and Information. 

A Latino from South Texas, his research focuses on the social and policy implications of the production and consumption of information, especially as they relate to ethnic minorities. He conducted the first study of the impact of minority ownership in broadcasting, and conducted the original research that led to recognition of the Digital Divide. His studies of minority ownership contributed to the Supreme Court’s decision in Metro Broadcasting, Inc. v. F.C.C. et al.

Schement is author of over 250 books, papers, and articles. Prior to Rutgers, he was a distinguished professor at Penn State University, where he co-founded the Institute for Information Policy. He holds a PhD from Stanford University in Communication, an MS in Marketing from the University of Illinois, and a BBA from Southern Methodist University.


 Project Scholar- Dr. Lorrin Thomas

Dr. Lorrin Thomas, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University-Camden explores ideas about rights and equality in the twentieth century Americas. Her first book, Puerto Rican Citizen: History and Political Identity in Twentieth Century New York City (University of Chicago Press, 2010; winner, Saloutos prize of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society of the OAH and honorable mention, Casa de las Américas prize), traces the complex meanings of citizenship for Puerto Ricans in the United States. Professor Thomas is currently writing a book on the Puerto Rican struggle for civil rights, with Prof. Aldo Lauria Santiago, to be published in 2016.  She is also researching a new book project on the politics of human rights in the United States and Mexico in the wake of the social and political movements of the 1960s.

Professor Thomas teaches a range of courses on Latin American history and the history of the Americas, including survey courses on Latin America and the Caribbean, and seminars on U.S. and Latin American relations, modern Mexico, and race and ethnicity in the Americas. She will be chair of the History department beginning in July 2015.


Project Partner- Julie Tozer

Julie Tozer has been the Branch Manager of the Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez Downtown Branch of the Camden County Library since January 2013. She is particularly proud of the growth of programming and services for all ages at the branch, including ESL and Basic Reading classes for adults, weekly on-site social services visits, and a vibrant schedule of programs for kids, teens, and families. Prior to coming to Camden, she served for five years as Teen Librarian and department manager at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library. She earned her MLS from CUNY, Queens College, while working as an assistant in the Architectural Drawings & Archives department of the Avery Library at Columbia University.



© , Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Rutgers is an equal access/equal opportunity institution. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to direct suggestions, comments, or complaints concerning any accessibility issues with Rutgers websites to or complete the Report Accessibility Barrier / Provide Feedback form.